“Invited and Inviting”
Pentecost 18A, Proper 23 October 15, 2017
Exodus 32:1-14, Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23, Philippians 4:1-9, Matthew 22:1-14
Jesus tells a parable describing a scene in the Kingdom of God where God is ready to call believers to the wedding feast celebrating the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ’s, marriage to the Bride of Christ – The Church. It is a scene about the Invited and Inviting.
Takes place at a wedding banquet. In the Bible the metaphor of marriage is a strong symbol of human relationships with God. From the creation story of Adam and Eve, to the prophet Hosea’s marriage to Gomer – an unfaithful wife – to the Wedding of Cana in Galilee, to the description of a Wedding Banquet in the Book of Revelation, God is making clear that our relationship with Him is like a marriage: There is to be a union of the two motivated by love and commitment. Intimacy at every level will characterize the relationship.
In today’s parable all is ready: the meat is ready; the wine is prepped and ready to serve; the tables are set, and the waiters and waitresses are trained and in position. The groom’s father – God – the King, sends servants out to remind the invited that it is time to come to the banquet.
However, the guests refuse to come. You’re aware, aren’t you, that while teaching about the Kingdom of God, the parable also serves another purpose by symbolizing Israel and its relationship with God. A second time, the Father sends his servants to the invited guests, reminding them of all the preparations and expense the master has gone through to provide the wedding banquet. They said they would come and now they are expected to be there. So, what did the people do to the Master’s servants. They assaulted them and murdered some.
Throughout their history God sent many servants to Israel inviting them to come to God’s banquet, and they consistently refused all invitations and exhortations the prophets issued. Some, they even killed. In another parable, God sends his Son, the heir of the Kingdom, the bridegroom for whom the banquet was being given, and the people killed him also. Enraged, the Father orders his troops – the Assyrians, the Babylonians, and the Romans – to destroy those who refused his gracious, and glorious offer.
Now, back at the Banquet Hall; the place is nearly empty, devoid of the invited guests. What is the Father to do? It is his son’s wedding and there are not enough guests present to fill the hall, eat the food and drink the wine? So, the Father again sends his servants out, this time into the streets to issue invitations to those who were not part of the original guest list. Happy to have an opportunity to attend such a privileged party the place is soon filled up with the least likely. You know, the poor, the distressed, the haggarded, the harassed; the lame, the blind, the ill, the injured, the Gentiles of the world; why, its people just like you and me – the good and the bad.
The parable of the Wedding Feast has become the reality of the Church.
Take A Look Around!
As I was reading this lesson it occurred to me that it is a snap shot of Holy Cross. In some ways we are the least likely. Some thought we wouldn’t even be here today. We may not have been on the Invitation “A” List, but we’re here. We are guests of the Father, celebrating the Wedding of the Son. We are feasting on the riches of the King. We’ve come from all sorts of backgrounds, life-styles, successes and failures. We’ve come through trials, temptations and tribulations. But, we’re here. We might be the least-likely to be here, but – We’re Here! Praise God!
People were invited and didn’t come. We were invited … we came, we stayed …, and now we are enjoying the banquet. There is reason to celebrate, isn’t there? In fact, Sundays are a reminder of the Wedding Banquet Christians will enjoy together in Heaven. Sunday is the Lord’s Day – the day we remember and celebrate His resurrection, Sunday is therefore a day of Celebration. It is not a day of gloom and doom. It is a day that the Redeemed of the Lord say so. It is a day of praise and worship, and remembrance, and celebration. It is a day for singing and rejoicing and partaking in the good food that God provides on behalf of his son – Jesus Christ.
Sunday is a day for celebrating the victory Jesus has won for us, and if we fill it with too much negativity then guests we’ve invited to the banquet miss the point. They don’t get why becoming a Christian makes your life better. And that brings me to my next point. We, the invited are also to
Even as the King’s servants went out into the streets inviting everyone they encountered to the banquet, so should we. The parable must also be understood as teaching this important point. We are Invited and we are supposed to be Inviting.
God wants the Marriage Banquet in Heaven to be filled. Therefore, we are to do more than sit here once or twice a week and get fed. God has work for us to do on behalf of the Son. By virtue of what he did for us on the Cross, Jesus is Lord of all. But not everyone will call him Lord. Some will flat-out reject Jesus. They will refuse to understand what He did for them, and the offer He is making them – “your garbage for my riches”.
Others will end up rejecting Jesus out of ignorance. They will not respond to Him because we’ve never invited them to come and meet Him. Some will come and have an encounter with the risen Lord and begin an Exodus journey of leaving their old ways behind while they head to God’s promised land of Heaven. But troubles will occur in their lives and they – like Israel in the presence of the Living God – will become discouraged and attempt to return to the idols of their former lives. That is where we need to intercede.
Even as Moses interceded with God for the lives of those sinning against God with the Golden Calf, we have to intercede with God on each other’s behalf. Today’s Psalm says: “Happy are those who act with justice and always do what is right!” (:3). The reality is that none of us have it so together that we don’t need some encouragement, some attention, or some intercessory prayer. This is the point St. Paul is teaching us in Romans 10:13, 13as the Scripture says, “Anyone who calls on the Lord will be saved.” 14But before people can ask the Lord for help, they must believe in him; and before they can believe in him, they must hear about him; and for them to hear about the Lord, someone must tell them;”
God wants His banquet Hall filled up. But the inviting is up to us. God’s Spirit will be with us as we prayerfully invite people to come: to taste, and see, and know that the Lord, He is good. But we have to go into the highways and by-ways of our lives and be open to invite anyone God leads us to encounter.
Holy Cross is a good, and I trust, a safe place to be. Here, from the streets of our existence, we gather together to worship the Lord, serve the purposes of the Kingdom of Heaven, and enjoy the fellowship of the redeemed of the Lord. However, in faithfulness to the Scripture there is
One Other Point To Make.
In the parable there is an uncomfortable scene when the King encounters a guest who is not properly attired. 2and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and cast him into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.’ 14For many are called, but few are chosen.”
We are to invite anyone, and everyone to come to church, in the hope of their meeting Jesus Christ. However, just coming to Holy Cross, or any church does not get a person’s ticket to Heaven validated.
The image, in the parable, is being properly attired. It is metaphorical, not literal. God doesn’t really care what clothes we wear, but God deeply cares if we are covered by the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
In the Gospels there was something so special about the robe of Jesus that the Roman guards cast lots for it. Likewise, in the Old Testament it states that our sin is like wearing filthy rags. Therefore, the image in my mind is Jesus coming to us and offering to exchange his righteous robe for our sinful rags – and, if we will, He will! It’s marvelous. So, we invite people. We invite them to worship. We invite them to Wednesday night. We invite them to Youth Group, or to Scouting. We invite them to anything else taking place here. We invite in the hope that some will establish personal relationships with Jesus Christ, and we will all be together in heaven at the wedding banquet God throws for his Son and the invited guests – the body of Christ, the Church made up of all faithful believers in Jesus. If you have never exchanged your sin rags for Christ’s righteous robe, today would be a good day. Just image standing before Jesus. Feel his love and acceptance of you. No embarrassment, no shame. Now take off your rags. Give them to Jesus. Now receive his robe. Put it on. Let His righteousness cover you. Now you look like him. Now act like him. In Philippians 4:7, Paul wrote: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”